Release Date(s)2012 (January 19, 2013)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation (Sony Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
In Hotel Transylvania, released in 2013 to great box office success and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Primal), Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) has raised his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) on his own after the death of her mother not long after her birth. He opens a secret hotel in the middle of nowhere that only monsters can find and stay at, and the latest occasion is Mavis’ 118th birthday party. Though she loves her father and her life, she yearns to go out into the world and see it for herself, which the Count is very much against, instilling in her that all humans only want to destroy their kind. Showing up on their doorstep one day is Johnny (Andy Samberg), a very much human young man who unintentionally connects (Zings) with Mavis, much against the Count’s wishes. He then attempts to keep the truth of the outside world and Johnny’s status as a human hidden from everyone while dealing with the everyday toils of running a hotel, planning a birthday party, and keeping his closest friends happy. To date, the Hotel Transylvania franchise has spawned three sequels, a TV series, and a devoted fan base.
Count me among those who saw the first trailer for Hotel Transylvania and wrote it off completely as bottom-of-the-barrel, mainstream drivel for the masses. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally sat down to watch it (admittedly almost ten years after it debuted in theaters) and discovered that it was a better than I expected in nearly every category. Most of the voice work is strong, especially from Sandler whose very name is enough to write off any film for those despise him. He does really good work here, as does the rest of the cast, including the likes of Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, and David Spade—all of whom are given many moments to shine. The story and many of the moments that tend to occur in mainstream animated films are predictable, but the characters are given a bit more gravitas and react in unexpected ways. Granted, there is the occasional fart joke, but there’s enough humor from the characters and situations that these types of moments, which would be major turnoffs in lesser films, become minor. In fact, the film as a whole is surprisingly funny and heartfelt.
To be clear, Hotel Transylvania and its sequels are not necessarily what hardcore film fans who crave the works of Godart are looking for, but not everything has to be that. It works for the young, the old, and everything in between. To put a finer point on it, it’s like a slice of cake that isn’t too sweet or too bitter, but is enough to satisfy in all the right ways—critics be damned.
Hotel Transylvania was animated digitally, finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The Blu-ray 2D looks as colorful and crisp as you can imagine for 1080p. Everything is well rendered but not overly sharp, appearing slightly soft around the edges to give characters and objects more definition. Hues are all over the map, from bursting primaries and secondaries to a range of neons during the party and dance sequences. A minor bit of digital noise in the background is visible occasionally, but it’s brief and hardly noticeable (and possibly inherent in the master). The Blu-ray 3D offers a presentation that focuses primarily on depth. Even the opening Columbia Pictures logo pops out beautifully. The many environments and kinetic character activities in both wide shots and close-ups allow the 3D to envelop rather than relying on gimmicks. Both options offer fine presentations of the film.
The main audio option is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and it’s a very active and immersive experience. Because the film is filled with a number of monsters doing any number of things, the sound design keeps the soundtrack busy. Frequent activity is staged all around, panning and zooming from speaker to speaker, but also providing background ambience. The track also aids Mark Mothersbaugh’s excellent score... the closing credits music is particularly beautiful. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise as well. Other audio options include English Descriptive Audio; French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (the latter on the Blu-ray 2D only); Portuguese Descriptive Audio; and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Subtitles for the audio commentary include English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Sony’s release of Hotel Transylvania features a Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray 2D, and DVD of the film. The following extras are included on both Blu-ray discs:
- Audio Commentary with Genndy Tartakovsky, Michelle Murdocca, and Daniel Kramer
- Goodnight Mr. Foot Animated Short (4:07)
- Deleted Scenes: Prologue (3:43)
- Deleted Scenes: Shadows (1:03)
- Deleted Scenes: Caught in the Act (1:48)
- Meet the Staff and Guests: Voicing Hotel Transylvania (6:29)
- Making the Hotel (3:44)
- Progression Reels: Genndy Blur (2:44)
- Progression Reels: Mavis Ventures Out (1:32)
- Progression Reels: Look of Picture (3:59)
- Problem (Monster Remix) Music Video (3:27)
- Behind the Scenes of Problem (Monster Remix) (2:21)
- The Smurfs 2 Preview (:40)
- Arthur Christmas Preview (1:34)
- The Pirates! Band of Misfits Preview (2:24)
- Adventures in Zambezia (1:47)
The audio commentary featuring director Genndy Tartakovsky, producer Michelle Murdocca, and visual effects supervisor Daniel Kramer is mostly flat and technical, but the three contributors provide a wealth of information, occasionally speaking off the cuff but not very often. A few instances of silence creep in as they talk about the production while they watch it together (likely due to cut content), but the track mostly barrels along. Goodnight Mr. Foot is an exclusive animated short in the style of the closing credits animation to the film in which Bigfoot stays at the hotel for the night and a witch (maid) makes sure he’s not disturbed while he sleeps. The Deleted Scenes are primarily pre-visualized storyboards, showcasing the original opening of the film in which Dracula meets his wife and they have Mavis; the fully animated sequence in which the various guests leave their homes to come to the hotel; and a removed rap song sequence featuring Johnny (for the best). Meet the Staff and Guests speaks to some of the cast and crew about the voice sessions and the actors. Making the Hotel discusses the conceptual designs and the process of getting to the final animation. The Progression Reels show the animation of various moments in transition with narration by the filmmakers. The rest of the extras are self-explanatory. The DVD features most of these extras, but loses the Meet the Staff and Guests and Making the Hotel featurettes, as well as the Progression Reels.
Despite the negative critical reception, Hotel Transylvania has eked out its own little corner of pop culture and become a favorite of many an audience. It has a surprisingly broad appeal, and if you’re like me and you dismissed right out of the gate, give it a chance, especially in 3D.
- Tim Salmons